Jerichow

Retooled noir with less pulp than its original source, Christian Petzold’s Jerichow wryly riffs on The Postman Always Rings Twice for late-capitalist Deutschland. Mostly cool where James M. Cain’s 1934 novel and the 1946 and 1981 film versions run hot, Jerichow is interested less in the frictions of bodies rubbing up against each other than in the static of class and cultural tensions as wads of euros exchange hands. As in Petzold’s previous movie, Yella, the dehumanizing qualities of commerce drive the narrative. But where the earlier film lost some of its punch to a cheap plot contrivance, the tight twists and turns of Jerichow suggest that Petzold has become a far more robust storyteller. The players in Jerichow’s love triangle—Ali (Hilmi Sözer), a Turkish snack-shop proprietor; his wife, Laura (Petzold regular Nina Hoss); and Thomas (Benno Fürmann), the ex-soldier Ali hires as a driver—are consistently excellent, with Sözer’s broken, pathetic magnate starting out pitiful before becoming contemptible and, finally, human, as his tentative swagger is constantly undermined by his outsider status. Petzold’s film forgoes the prolonged double-crosses of The Postman Always Rings Twice, its simpler ending made all the more powerful—and a little heartbreaking.
July 17-30, 2009

 
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